November 24, 2012; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (45) during warm ups before the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB Georgia Tech

Since Paul Johnson came in and took over as the head coach of Georgia Tech, the bulk of their prospects for the NFL are on the defensive side of the ball and this year looks to be no different.  Perhaps the most exciting player they have in this year’s crop is Jeremiah Attaouch, their pass rushing outside linebacker.   After starting out his career as a defensive end, they made a smart move by moving him to an outside linebacker which is a better fit in terms of his size and skill set.

Attaochu has made strides in terms of his production each year at Georgia Tech and he was able to tally 44 solo tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one pass deflection, and one forced fumble as a junior.  There is a lot to be excited about with Attaochu as he enters his senior year starting with his quickness and speed, but he needs to improve his technique to shed blocks and stay on his feet more consistently.  If he can do that, he could be even more productive as a pass rusher but substantially improve his viability and draft stock for the NFL.  Right now, Attaochu looks like an early day three prospect but if he can make the necessary improvements, he could easily find himself in the top 100 and perhaps the top 75.

Vitals & Build

Attaochu is listed at 6’3” 240lbs with tremendous quickness and agility.  He has a pretty good build for the position but his frame is a little deceptive because he tends to play somewhat low to the ground, albeit oddly needs to do that more consistently at times.  As a result, Attaochu looks like he might be able to continue adding strength but it could ultimately depend on where a team wants to put him.  Attaochu could stand to improve his functional strength but that might come down to better use of his body in terms of leverage more than it would be in terms of strength.  In terms of his overall athleticism, Attaochu has a ton of it, but needs to do a better job in terms of his balance and staying off of the ground and then working to improve his technique.

Snap Anticipation & First Step

Attaochu does a good job of anticipating the snap and firing off the ball at the right time.  Because of his explosive ability and speed, this is a huge advantage and the fact he does anticipate the snap as well as he does is important for him to be dangerous on the edge.

His first step is pretty good but he can do a better job when it comes to his stance.  Since Attaochu has been moved to outside linebacker, he is rushing out of a two point stance exclusively and he can be more consistent in terms of having all of his motion going forward.  At times, he gets it right where all of his movement is going forward and it is exactly what he needs to do, but there are definitely times where he will bounce and his motion goes down before it goes forward.

The Rambling Wreck defense can sometimes function on lining up late to give the opponent less time to read what they are doing, so it can be difficult to get a good stance quickly.  It just comes down to practicing to get the best stance every time, so he can set up quickly as a natural reflex.  He will also occasionally rush from more of a press stance that is more commonplace to a cornerback, which makes it a little difficult to show a great first step.  Attaochu is incredibly explosive with tremendous burst off the line, so if he can get more consistent with his stance, he will be more effective as a threat off the edge.

The one wrinkle that Attaochu will throw in the mix is selling the idea that he is coming up the field, but going inside and at times depending on his read, going straight down the line even with his first step.  In the situations where he stays going down the line, the tackle lined up over him is rendered useless.  He can attack inside at virtually and gap at that point depending on what he sees or continue going to the side if the run is going away from where he was lined up on the play.

While he can make a few adjustments to what he does in his stance, Attaochu’s ability to anticipate the snap count and his explosive first steps are a huge reason why he is such a dangerous player.  He can fly off the line up the field but the fact that he is willing to do it inside is what makes the outside move so viable and effective.

Block Shedding

Attaochu’s best method of shedding blocks is to either avoid them entirely or by being able to take on half the man.  He has terrific speed and agility so he is able to put guys at a disadvantage and get around them, but he really struggles to disengage from blocks with his hands. If he cannot simply run out of them, he is rendered ineffective.

When he is able to work half the man, he can get low, use a dip move, and get around the edge.  The times opponents are able to keep him in front of them leave Attaochu with little or no options at this point.  Even when he is facing tight ends, he is able to get around them, but he is forced to take the long way around.  He does not have much activity with his arms and they tend to just end up bracing himself against the blocker rather than being able to figure out a way to disengage or fight past them.

If he can do a better job of playing lower and taking more advantage of his power, he should look into using more of a bull rush, especially if he uses speed to set up opportunities to switch to power.  If he can get under their pads, he should be able to develop the momentum to do it effectively.  Attaochu has also displayed a spin move that is a work in progress that could develop into a viable tool if he can continue to refine it.

Attaochu struggles to shed blocks and while he has significant potential as an edge player and rusher, this could be his downfall at the next level.  The other side of this is that if he can to a better job and learn to use his hands to take on and shed blocks as a pass rusher, his production for Georgia Tech could skyrocket and his viability for the NFL could increase substantially.

Run Stopping

Attaochu can be stout at the point of attack but he will get overwhelmed at times because he is not that big.  He gets himself in trouble when he plays too high and has issues with balance.  For as smooth of an athlete as he can be, Attaochu is on the ground far too often and needs to improve in that area.  He gets tripped up far too often and needs to do a better on with cut blocks and maintaining his balance against offensive linemen.

Attaochu is slightly better at taking on and shedding blocks as a run defender only because he can beat moving linemen with quickness who have their weight coming forward and may not be entirely aware of where the ball carrier is, so Attaochu can set them up by faking them in in a different spot and get the offensive lineman out of place and he can get by him with his speed.

Where Attaochu can be extremely effective is as a run and chase linebacker with his speed.  He has tremendous range and is able to make plays all over the field.  He has also shown the ability to keep offensive linemen out of his body as he moves laterally and will sometimes show the ability to fight through trash on the way to plays.  He is also able to chase plays down from behind at times when he goes up field and then adjusts to the run.

Pass Rushing

Attaochu shows potential as a pass rusher, but he is more or less halfway there.  The reason is that he is extremely effective in the lower half of his body while he has work to do above the waist.  He is able to use speed and explosive quickness to get the opposition off balance and create opportunities for himself but he needs to do a much better job of finishing the job with the upper half of his body, especially when it comes to his hands.

He is able to demonstrate bend at the ankle and get good lean at times as well as being able to dip under blocks and take advantage of his leverage, but he would have far more opportunities if he could be more effective with his hands.  Attaochu is only effective when he is able to work half the man and even then, he is not always able to do the job.

The reason Attaochu is able to get around the edge like he is because he is so explosive off the edge, but also because of his willingness to attack inside.  It is somewhat unique how he is able to sell that he is coming up the field but then takes a big, effective step straight down the line.  So while the tackle steps a step back to protect the edge, Attaochu is already working his way inside and when that happens, the tackle is stuck trying to recover to catch him attacking to the inside between the and guard and tackle.  The fact that Attaochu is so willing and effective to go to the inside keeps offensive linemen honest and keeps that outside rush as a viable option.  And when he is able to get the quarterback in his sights, he has terrific closing speed to chase them down or gain momentum to lay a good hit.

If he was able to put significant work in his hand fighting and technique with taking on and shedding blocks as a pass rusher, he could really have a huge season for the Rambling Wreck defense.  As it is, he is still an effective speed rusher who can get around the edge or attack to the inside with quickness, but is basically out of the play when offensive linemen can keep him in front of them.

Coverage

Attaochu is extremely athletic with short area quickness and impressive long speed, which really shows up when he drops into coverage.  He gets into his drops quickly and he can fly around in space and make plays.  Attaochu is still working mostly on instincts and he is not refined in the least as a coverage linebacker but there is a lot of potential in that area and he could be attractive to NFL teams as a result.

If he can make a big step forward in this area during his senior year, it could really open up his options for NFL teams and roles he could play.  More than a few teams are happy to have a guy who can rush the passer and be an effective coverage player, so being able to do both could keep him in the league for quite a while.

System Fit

The most obvious fit for Attaochu is as a rush backer in a 3-4 scheme.  His explosiveness off the edge and his ability to bend around offensive linemen make him an attractive player for teams that run that system, especially a team like the Steelers who tend to go with shorter, more explosive rushers.  His listed height is actually taller than Pittsburgh usually prefers, so he will really need to excel at playing low.

The other possibility is that Attaochu could end up as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3 system.  His ability to blitz and rush from the linebacker spot will be attractive there as well, but he also has tremendous range to make tackles against the run and he has showed potential to be a good coverage option.  Attaochu really needs to develop his ability in coverage but if he can do that, he could be a three down player for teams like the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals who love to blitz from just about anywhere but need viable coverage players as well.   He could play linebacker on running downs and either come up and be a pure edge rusher on passing downs or be able to also drop into coverage.

Schedule

Sat, Aug. 31 vs. Elon
Sat, Sept. 14 at Duke
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. North Carolina
Thu, Sept. 26 vs. Virginia Tech
Sat, Oct. 5 at Miami
Sat, Oct. 12 at BYU
Sat, Oct. 19 vs Syracuse
Sat, Oct. 26 at  Virginia
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Pittsburgh
Thu, Nov. 14 at Clemson
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Alabama A&M
Sat, Nov. 30 vs. Georgia

Notable Games

The biggest games for Attoachu seem to come in groups as the ACC has a number of talented quarterbacks.  The first group starts with North Carolina and Virginia Tech at home before going to Coral Gambles to play Miami.  All three opponents have quarterbacks who can cause problems for the Yellow Jacket defense and Attaochu being able to get pressure will be huge.  Attaochu going up against Seantrel Henderson could be a fun matchup to watch depending on how many snaps they have between them as Henderson is a big, powerful tackle against a speed rusher in Attoachu.

The second group of games featured Clemson on the road with Tahj Boyd in a nationally televised matchup on a Thursday night.  They have a padded scrimmage against Alabama A&M before they turn around and play in state rival Georgia.  The good news is that they get the Bulldogs at home, but they will need to be able to stop the run and put pressure on Aaron Murray if they want to win that game or they might get caught up in a shootout.

NFL Comparison

When he goes into the NFL, Attaouch could be similar to O’Brien Schofield of the Arizona Cardinals.  Schofield entered the league in less than ideal circumstances as he tore his knee up at the Senior Bowl, but was still selected in the fourth round because of his ability to rush the passer with his speed just like Attaochu.  Schofield has found a role as a situational pass rusher for the Cardinals with 10.5 sacks in three years.  Attaochu could have a similar path to the league, but if he can improve his technique, he could go higher than Schofield and have more success early in his career.

Draft Projection

Jeremiah Attaochu has an attractive skill set with his build and his speed, so he can attack around the edge.  He will be able to make a few big plays on that alone but in order for him to take the next big step, Attaochu needs to develop his hand usage and learn how to defeat blocks.  If he is unable to do that, he could struggle in the NFL with offensive linemen with better feet and the ability to get in front of him.  The other angle that could help Attaochu is if he can be a more viable weapon in coverage which would make him an intriguing option for 4-3 teams.  As it stands, Attaochu looks like a day three pick but he could work himself into a solid day two pick that might be able to go as high as the top 75.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Football Jeremiah Attaochu Outside Linebackers

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